Offline commerce. Still a shining star?

Why are users still so interested in physical commerce despite the continued growth of online?

Online commerce is growing at an unstoppable rate, reaching an increasing number of consumers who find the best way to make their purchases on the Internet. But what about physical stores? Far from what one might think, the data on these stores is also growing; in fact, the number of people who go to physical stores has grown both in number and in frequency. Thus, the percentage of people who buy at least once a week in physical stores has risen from 40% in 2016 to 48% in 2019.

But why are users still so interested in physical commerce? There are some reasons that may explain this behaviour, and how the two worlds fit together:

Speed: one of the main advantages of physical stores is the availability of stock, which in most cases allows you to take the product with you at the time of purchase. Although there are online stores that offer same-day delivery, generally buying a product in the store is the fastest way.

Type of product: the choice of purchase channel is in many cases conditioned by the type of product. For example, hotel or flight reservations are increasingly approaching the online world, while food products continue to win widely in the physical world. This is due, among other things, to the possibility of «seeing» and «touching» products, which the consumer values as one of the main reasons for buying in physical stores. In addition, there is the possibility of «testing» the product, for example in the case of clothing, technological devices, toys, furniture, etc.

Shopping experience: having a sales assistant with knowledge of the product sold and capable of advising the buyer is essential, especially when it comes to complex products or services that are of great importance to the person. This also means a more human experience, which can be pleasant just by establishing a conversation.

Leisure activity: on many cases, people do not go to a shopping centre just for the sake of shopping, that is, because they need to acquire a product, but as a social activity, with their friends or family. Although not everyone likes to go shopping, for many it is the perfect plan either alone or in company.

Price and availability: although it is thought that online commerce or large marketplaces have cheaper prices, even if they are the same stores or brands, this is not always the case. Sometimes, a product can be cheaper in the physical store, and this is a good reason to go there to make the purchase. In addition, not all products are available on the Internet, as there may be very specific articles or services that, not being in the digital world, lead to purchase in the shop.

Security: although security in the online environment has increased significantly in recent years, reducing fraud and being the payment methods safer, there are still many people who perceive the face-to-face channel as the safest way to buy. Here again, the type of purchase made, whether it is of great importance to the person or if it involves a significant cost, comes into play. By having a physical location, the user has the feeling that he or she will be able to make claims more easily in case of having a problem, being able to be attended or helped in a more direct way.

Although there are differences between online and offline shopping, the mission of retailers should be to adapt each one of their spaces to offer the customer the best experience, reducing the weaknesses of each channel and making both work as a whole. It is important to understand that each product and customer will be different, so following an all-channel strategy is today the best way to offer each user an experience adapted to its needs, understanding that the consumer no longer moves in a single channel, but can interact with different channels during their purchase process.

From Sipay Plus, a Spanish payment gateway focused on the development of multichannel payment solutions for merchants, they underline the importance of unifying the business strategy around the different communication and sales tools, managing the different channels as a single business and not as different businesses, as it was done in the past.

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